April 7, 2007
N & S Hancocks, White Mtn., NH 48-4K Series
We arrived early at the Hancock Notch Trailhead on the Kancamagus Highway. This trailhead is at the top of a hairpin turn coming out of Lincoln. We parked at the outlook parking area that is maybe a 100 yards past, as parking on that turn at the trailhead is strictly prohibited. There is a small walk through the woods from the parking area to minimize foot travel on the Kanc., however, you still need to cross the road and should be careful as you are crossing at the apex of a hairpin turn which makes for a blind spot. The trail is relatively flat and with the recent 2' of fresh Spring snow, it was snowshoes all the way. We were thankful for a friend whom we met later, Sam from Maine. Sam broke trail to the first peak. The Hancock Notch Trail is very gradual gaining just 400 feet by the time we reached the junction of Cedar Brook Junction. We turned on to Cedar Brook trail, immediately crossing a brook. There were 5 more crossings to come. The snow bridges were somewhat intact making the numerous stream crossings somewhat easy, however, icing and snowballing of the shoes became a problem as some of the crossings were pretty well melted. There was only 200 more feet of elevation gain when we arrived at the junction for the Hancock Loop Trail. The walk in the woods was a tease for what was yet to follow. Crossing over the brook again, we headed up another 600 feet over the next mile to reach the junction where you can go to the North or South peak. Our original plan was to go clockwise over North peak to South peak and descend. Sam went South to North as evidenced by the unbroken north turnoff. We followed Sam's work and went South to North which I discovered was probably "6 of 1...a 1/2 dozen of the other." Well, now the work really began. The .5 miles to the summit was one of more challenging ascents (1000' elevation gain in 1/2 mile...Ouch!) . It was a long aerobic step kicking endeavor, but we finally made it to the viewless South peak summit where we had lunch and met Sam. We also had a guest Husky who's owners we would later meet. This was a good thing as Charlene dropped a jacket which they had found and returned. Now the bad news. We had to reciprocate for Sam, as the col from South to North was unbroken. The ridgeline was the type I hate. It was completely lined with long hanging snow covered trees which makes for difficult wet hiking when you are 6'4" tall like myself. We had some trouble finding the trail but found the blazes eventually. Just as I was tired and aggravated from doing all this work and not getting the typical ridgeline view that you come to expect from the Whites, we came to North peak. There was some nice views of the Osceola's, Carrigain, and Chocurua from the summit and nearby outlook.
"What goes up. must come down". We descended North loop on very tired legs. A 1100' elevation drop in .7miles. I swallowed my pride and used the "butt slide" method most of the way to the trail loop junction.
We were all exhausted, wet, and gratified that the long day came to and end.
A 9.6 mile journey with snowshoes. It has been a good Winter but I am looking forward to some mud season "R&R" before the Summer season.